Watered Down

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Chapter Twenty Two

Alana threw her head back in a laugh, her thick curls bouncing around her head. “Oh, stupid child.” She laughed. “What makes you think I’d want to make a deal with you?” She asked amused.

I didn’t falter. “Because you’d be stupid not to.” I replied.

She shot up from her seat and glared into my eyes. “I am far from stupid, child.” She hissed.

“Then you’ll listen to what I’ve got to say.” I told her and she waited, pursing her lips into a hard line. I took a deep breath. “I want you to let the other two girls go.” I told her and she began to laugh again. “I’m serious.” I said firmly.

My resolve wasn’t going to break. For the first time in my life I am doing the right thing, the selfless thing, once and for all.

“Why on earth or in the sea would I agree to that?” She asked, still recovering from her burst of laughter.

“Because,” I told her. “You need me, not them.” I reasoned. “You are the insane one if you actually think any of us are going to be getting anymore souls for you.” I rolled my eyes. “The deal was 100 and we gave you that. Now you can force us all three to stay here but they aren’t going to kill anyone else for you.”

“They will if they don’t want to see their loved ones die, or to never return home.” She snapped.

“That’s the thing.” I told her, shrugging my shoulders. “I don’t think either of them care anymore. Cassandra thinks she’s made things worse on her family, and Levi doesn’t want to live anymore if it means she has to stay here any longer. They don’t care anymore.”

Her face fell slightly, and she narrowed her eyes, trying to gage if I was bluffing with her or not. “And you do?” she asked.

“Yes, I do.” I told her. “I will keep my original deal with you, if you let the two of them go and just find two other girls.” I told her, throwing in a shrug like it was easy business. “You don’t need them.” I reminded her. “Theon helps me, so I’m really the only one who matters, and you said yourself how hard it is to find a pure one.” I shrugged. “Seems to me you’d be missing out on a lot of time that you could have new girls here to work for you, rather than keep ones who have already paid their debts to you.”

“And I’m supposed to believe you’re just doing this out of the kindness of your heart?” She asked. “What do you want to get out of this?”

I looked her dead in the eyes. “You like to read people’s minds from time to time, Alana. Look in my head and see for yourself.” I could tell my tone was driving her mad but she was trying to remain calm, weighing her options. “I don’t want anything else from you, Alana.” I assured her. “Just let them go, and you and I are good.”

She sighed, her eyes looking passed me and over to the orb. She was deep in thought, as she walked over to it, but I knew it was too good of an opportunity for her to pass it up, and so did she. “Go get them.” She snapped at me.

When I came out of the water, both girls bombarded me with questions, but I just pulled them back down to the cavern with me.

“What’s going on?” Levi asked Alana when we walked in.

Alana looked passed her and over to me. “We have a deal?” She asked.

“Yes,” I told her. “I will stay and finish my time.”

Alana grinned. “And work?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes.” I said again.

She beamed at me. “Very well.” She said. “Girls, place your hands on the orbs, please.”

Levi and Cass looked at me questioningly but I nodded my head to them.

“What…?” Levi asked, but Alan sharpened her gaze.

“Do it before I change my mind.” She snapped.

They two of them touched the orb at the same time and the light that flashed from it was almost blinding, but when the flash subsided, I saw Cass and Levi floating there, their hair and clothes wet like they should be, swirling around them in the water, and their hands over their mouths.

They began to swim furiously for the cave opening, no longer able to breathe beneath the water, but they were going too slow.

I quickly grabbed their arms and helped them above the water, with hardly any time left to spare. The both of them broke through, spitting water from their mouths and shooting it out of their noses, and floundering their arms about as they swam for the closest shore. I couldn’t help but to laugh at them a little as we walked up the beach at the cove. They walked funny, like they were no longer attuned to the weight of their own bodies after only a few months here.

They were both dripping wet, their dresses and hair sticking to them awkwardly. “You guys look like wet rats.” I giggled.

Levi shoved her hair out of her face and smiled at Cass then back at me. “What did you do?” She asked, touching her bare neck where her amulet once was. Cass looked up at me with tears in her eyes, both of them knowing something was up as they both stared at my glowing amulet.

“I made a new deal.” I told her. “You and Cass deserve to get to go home and be normal.” My voice cracked and I tried hard not to cry. “I’m just going to be staying the two years, and then I will be leaving too.” I explained.

Levi shook her head slowly, her eyes falling to look at the sand between us. “I can’t believe you did that.” Cass whispered. “How did you get her to agree to that?”

I shrugged. “I told her that the two of you weren’t going to get anymore souls for her, and that I would stay, and I have the connections with Theon, and I’m the pure one, so I convinced her that it was in her better interest to make a new deal with me.”

“I don’t know what to say to you.” Levi said, shaking her head and pulling her hands through her hair.

Cassandra wiped her face and came to hug me. “Thank you so much, Serena.” She whispered to me. “I’m in shock right now.”

Levi wrapped her long arms around the both of us. “Seriously, Serena.” She said. “Thank you so much.”

I laughed, and tried not to cry as we all separated. “What do we even do now?” Cassandra asked.

“I guess go by Theon’s and ask him how to get to the city and call home from there.” I told them.

“Home.” Cassandra whispered.

“Home.” Levi repeated, and then they both hugged me again.

I smiled. “You guys deserve it.” I told them.

Levi turned to walk away, but quickly swiveled back, grabbing my hands. “You deserve to be leaving too.” She told me, her big blue eyes even bluer with the tears in them

“You have no idea how much this means to me, Serena.” Cass whispered. “You’re an amazing person.”

Levi nudged me in the side and smiled. “Big party at your place in two years, right?” She asked and I laughed.

“Absolutely.” I grinned. “I can hardly wait, but no yacht parties.” I giggled. “Those days are long behind me.”

We all laughed together, standing in a circle, holding each other’s hands.

“Promise you’ll call me the second you leave here.” Cassandra whispered. “You both are the greatest friends I’ve ever had and even though…you know, I am glad I was here with you both.” A crease formed between her eyebrows as she looked up at us. “I love you, Serena, and I love you, Levi.”

“I love you, Serena.” Levi grinned. “And I love you, Cass.”

I smiled at them both, my heart feeling full for once instead of heavy. “I love you both.” I told them. “You better hurry though before it gets too late.”

They hugged me one last time and I watched them disappear together, hand in hand, into the trees. I had thought about going with them to Theon’s, but after everything that had just happened over the last couple of hours, I really just needed some time alone, and I guess I was about to get plenty of it.

I know soon there will be new girls brought in, but I don’t plan to be making any more friends. It’s too hard once you’ve built a relationship with these people. I’m just going to hope that in two years’ time I can gain the 100 again by myself and not have to involve the new girls at all.

I laid back in the sand and plugged one head phone into my ear, pressing play. Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car came on and I closed my eyes, letting the words and the music wrap me up and ease my fears and worry. A handful of songs went by, and my softly falling tears began to subside. I wasn’t sad, I was happy, but that didn’t stop the tears from coming.

“What the hell have you done?” I heard Theon’s voice cut through the silence in between songs. I sat up quickly dropping the headphones beside me and turned to see him stomping barefoot out from the trees. “What did you do, Serena?” He asked again.

I stood up and dusted the sand off of me. “I didn’t want them to have to stay here.” I told him. “They didn’t deserve it.”

“And you do?” He yelled.

He looked pissed, his face was red and he was running his hands through his hair roughly as he looked down at me. “Alana was going to make us stay the whole two years, and that wasn’t fair, so I made a deal with Alana that I’ll stay if they can go.” I explained.

“I thought the deal with Alana was you had two years to get the 100 souls, right?” He asked.

“Yes,” I nodded my head. “But when we took the souls to her she told us we’d have to stay anyway.” I told him.

“But you said she said two years to complete it.” He said again.

I sighed, crossing my arms. “She did!” I told him. “She promised, but she went back on her word.”

“She played you, Serena.” He snapped at me, throwing his hands in the air. “She…” His body jerked and for a split second his eyes turned green.

“What the hell?” I asked as he recovered.

He looked back at me with his honey brown eyes and he let out a low almost growl like sound. “She’s listening to us.” He snarled. “She’s afraid.” He winced again. “That I will tell you.” He spit out through gritted teeth as he tensed his body again. “That I’ll tell you about how she ca-.” His voice broke and he fell to the ground, howling in pain.

“Theon!” I shouted, dropping at his feet. “Shut up, just stop saying whatever you’re saying!” I yelled at him. “It doesn’t matter anymore, the deal is made.” I told him. “Stop getting yourself hurt.”

He laid back in the sand below me and I brushed his hair away from his red face. “I can’t believe you did this.” He muttered after a while, his body seeming to relax a little.

I kept my hand on the side of his face, looking down on him. “I know it sucks, but I’m fine with the choice I made.” I told him. “Levi and Cass are free, and I will be too in a couple of years.” I shrugged and his face flashed angry again. “Hey,” I said, turning his head to make him look up at me. “It’s not all bad, right?” I asked. “At least it means I’m not leaving right now.” I smiled at him. “I can stay, and see Tally and…you.” I whispered.

I thought he’d be happy, but instead, he sat up quickly tossing my hand from him. “Serena, you made a mistake.” He said. “You never should have made another deal with Alana.”

“I don’t know why you’re so mad about it.” I said, crossing my arms again. “Besides, I didn’t really make a new deal, more so I just promised to stay and finish out the old deal.”

“Did you agree to more souls?” He asked and I nodded. “How many more, Serena?” He snapped.

“I didn’t say a specific number.” I told him weakly under the heat of his glare. “I just agreed to the two years and I said I would still work for her.”

The briefest of smiles played across his thick lips and he turned from me. “Good.” He said, walking towards the trees.

I got up and grabbed his hand, pulling him back to me. “Why are you mad at me?” I asked him. “I thought you would maybe be happy that we had more time to…”

He looked down on me. “No, Serena.” He said lowly. “I’m not mad, but I am definitely not happy.” He told me. “I know you did what you did out of love for your friends, but if you did it even just a little bit for me, you shouldn’t have.” He said. “You can’t stay here.” His voice was low, but I could hear how badly he meant it. “I thought I had been clear about that. I helped you because I wanted you to go, to be free of this, not so that you could play savior and get yourself more time here.”

“I was going to have to stay the full two years either way!” I yelled.

“No!” He screamed back, but then his body shook again and his eyes flashed. “I’ve got to go.” He said finally. “I’m getting you out of this.”

“What if I don’t want to be gotten out of it?”

“That’s not a choice!” He yelled. “God, Serena! What is wrong with you?” He asked. “Are you that afraid of going back?” He asked. “What are you so scared of?”

I flinched at the harshness of his tone, but I finally realized that I was actually afraid. Had he not said it out loud, I’m not sure I would have ever figured out that that was the weird feeling I’ve had hanging over me every time I think of leaving. Tears came to my eyes, but I didn’t let them fall. “Everything.” I whispered.

Theon sighed, and shook his head. Finally he came closer, pulling me into the hug I’d expected earlier. He patted my head against his chest and I sighed into him. “Why?” He asked softer, using the voice he uses on Tally when she’s upset.

“I don’t know.” I whispered, listening to his heart, and feeling it beat against my cheek. “Literally all of it scares me.” I told him. “I’m afraid that everything will be different…and then I’m also afraid that it won’t.” I admitted. “I feel differently about things than I did when I left, and I know it’s only been a few months, but I don’t want to go back to the person I was, or to do the things that I used to do.” I breathed heavily. “I’m scared I will go back and either I will revert right back to the person I was before this all happened, or I will forever be the outsider now, carrying all of this around with me.”

Theon tightened his grip on me. “I understand I think.” He said. “But being afraid doesn’t mean that you should just check out of your life entirely.” He said. “If you want to be different, then be different, if you want to be the same, be the same. It’s all up to you who you are after this, but you have to actually get to the after part before you can find out who you’ll be.”

“I know.” I sighed, then leaned away from him. “I don’t regret what I did though, Theon.” I told him. “I wanted to help them, and I’m glad that I did.”

Theon pursed his lips and nodded. “I guess I understand that too.” He said. “I can’t let this happen though.” He whispered.

“What do you mean?” I asked and he shook his head and held up his index finger to his lips. I furrowed my brows but nodded to him.

“I’ve got to go.” He said, touching my cheek briefly. “See you soon.” He winked weirdly, and I nodded, watching in confusion as he made his way into the trees.

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